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Jeb Bladine: Anti-media solution: Lynch journalists

Philippe Reines recently wrote: “The havoc Donald Trump’s presidency has wreaked will take years to fully understand, let alone recover from. High on the list of things to undo will be the damage done by two words: Fake News.”

His statement barely caused a ripple, perhaps because Reines served then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and has become a full-time critic of Trump and company. More people took notice in October, however, when respected CBS journalist Bob Schieffer addressed President Trump’s assault on the media:

“An independent press that can gather information that people can compare to the government’s versions of events … It is as crucial to our democracy as the right to vote. And when people try to undermine that, I think they are undermining the foundations of our democracy.”

Trump’s wide-ranging campaign about “fake news” has done lasting damage. He feeds the American weakness for demagoguery; he promotes distrust of information, and mistrust of fellow citizens and institutions.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

In February, Trump declared major media outlets “the enemy of the American people.” In October, he said broadcast licenses “must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.” He took matters to a new level when, while greeting costume-wearing children of the White House press corps, he blurted out, “I cannot believe the media produced such beautiful children! How the media did this, I don’t know.”

In November, we witnessed a natural result of what fact-checking Snopes.com called “a climate of hostility toward the mainstream news media from President Donald Trump and some of his supporters.” Walmart’s website was selling a T-shirt that invoked images of a lynching: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.”

The First Amendment runs deep, so I don’t question Walmart’s right to sell the shirt. And admittedly, I had to suppress a wry smile at the misguided joke. But the Radio Television Digital News Association was not amused, and Walmart withdrew the shirt one day after receiving a RTDNA letter that stated:

“T-shirts or any other items bearing such words simply inflame the passions of those who either don’t like, or don’t understand, the news media. At worst, they openly encourage violence targeting journalists. We believe they are particularly inflammatory within the context of today’s vitriolic political and ideological environment.”

The T-shirt, Snopes.com reported, was first seen at a Trump rally two days before the election. Today, 13 months later, it’s time our president reconsiders the legacy he is building.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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